https://riponadvance.com/featured/tillis-reignites-fight-against-international-parental-child-abduction/

Tillis reignites fight against international parental child abduction

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) this week told the U.S. State Department that its approach to return American children abducted abroad back to the United States isn’t working and more needs to be done.

“As United States senators, we cannot simply sit by and watch the State Department continue to issue ineffective demarches while countries continue to shelter those who abduct our citizen-children. We are committed to ensuring the return of every American child abducted abroad and we will not stop working on their behalf,” Sen. Tillis wrote in a bipartisan Jan. 2 letter sent to State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also signed the letter.

Each year, several hundred American children are abducted by one parent and taken to a foreign country, according to a statement from Sen. Tillis’ office, which added that such abductions may negatively impact a child’s mental, physical and emotional health and well-being.

Congress in 2014 approved the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, which provided the State Department with tools to compel foreign governments to return abducted American children back home, according to the senator’s statement. Such tools include official public censures and withdrawing development assistance.

Nevertheless, since the legislation became law, the State Department has continued to use demarches — or diplomatic communications — as its sole means of attempting to secure a child’s return, according to the senator’s statement.

“Unfortunately, a comprehensive review of past annual reports shows that the State Department rarely, if ever, goes beyond issuing a demarche,” the senators wrote to Pompeo.

And demarches aren’t effective, according to the senators’ letter, which noted that some countries, like Japan, have received several demarches, “but no additional, formal action was taken to address the problem of parental child abduction to Japan,” which continually harbors abducted American children.

In fact, both a 2018 State Department annual report and action report show that the department still isn’t using all of the tools it has at its disposal to rectify the situation, they pointed out.

“This approach is clearly failing,” the lawmakers wrote. “The number of children kidnapped from and then returned to the U.S. has shown no measurable improvement over the years. Simply issuing demarches, raising cases with foreign government officials and empty threats are not bringing children home.”

The senators urged the Department of State to utilize the tools and resources provided by law to bring home abducted American children.

“We hope you recognize the seriousness of the issue and will make it one of your top priorities,” according to their letter.

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http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20110209-73.html

Press Release

By the Ambassadors and Representatives of Australia, Canada, Colombia, the European Union, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America

Tokyo, Japan
Feb. 9, 2011

We, the Ambassadors of Canada, the European Union, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, the Political Counsellor of the Embassy of Australia, and the Consul of Colombia, called on Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs today to express the importance we continue to attach to the issue of international parental abduction, and to once again urge Japan to ratify the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“the Convention”).

We are encouraged by the serious consideration that the Government of Japan is currently giving this issue, including by establishing a Vice-Ministerial-level working group to study it. We look forward to Japan reaching a positive decision to ratify the Convention as soon as possible.

The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention across international borders, which can be a tragedy for all concerned. The Convention further establishes procedures to ensure the prompt return of children to the State of their habitual residence when wrongfully removed or retained, and secures protection for rights of access of both parents to their children. Under the Convention, a State is not bound to order the return of a child if it is established that there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.

To date, 84 countries have joined the Convention, including the eleven countries that jointly carried out today’s demarche, and all 27 member states of the European Union, which, moreover, has enshrined the principles laid down in the Convention into EU law. In the past year alone, three additional countries – Morocco, Gabon and Singapore – have joined the Convention, making it an increasingly universal standard for the handling of cross-border abduction cases. Japan is the only G-7 nation that has not signed the Convention. Currently the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities.

In our meeting with Parliamentary Vice-Minister Yamahana, we emphasized the high priority our governments place on the welfare of children affected by the breakdown of international marriages, and stressed that children should grow up with access to both parents. We also noted that Japanese ratification of the Convention would benefit Japanese nationals as much as those of other countries, since, as revealed by a recent web survey by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are many cases where Japanese parents and their children have lost contact because of abduction to other countries. We further urged Japan to identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and ensure visitation rights, and to establish a framework for resolution of current child abduction cases. Finally, we emphasized that the Convention has provisions to prevent children from being returned to abusive or otherwise threatening situations in other countries, as well as the existence of protective provisions against domestic violence within the legal systems of our countries.

Japan is an important partner for all of our countries in innumerable ways, ranging from vibrant political and economic relations, to the people-to-people ties of which international marriages are emblematic. All our governments continue to stand ready to assist Japan in its consideration of the Hague Convention, with a view to helping parents and children affected by this painful issue.